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South River Falls - Central SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
10.4 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,300 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Parking at the South River Picnic area (MP63). 38.38115, -78.51707

This hike can be done as a nice short 4.8 mile loop hike to see the Falls or a longer 10.6 mile circuit hike to see the Falls, 2 cemeteries, the Upper Pocosin Mission ruins, and the PATC Pocosin Cabin.

The 83' Falls, 3rd largest in SNP, are easily accessed via the South River Picnic Area (MP63). There is a walled overlook at mile 1.3 to view the Falls and for a great view of the Falls, a further walk down to the base of the Falls is encouraged.

  • Mile 0.0The trail begins near the restrooms about ¾ of the way around the South River Picnic Area.
  • Mile 0.2 – Intersection with the Appalachian Trail, stay straight on the Blue-blazed South River Falls Trail.
  • Mile 1.3 – After a steep descent and a couple of creek crossings you will arrive at the South River Falls walled overlook for view of Falls. Continue on the trail to the Fire  Road Intersection.
  • Mile 1.5 – Fire Road Intersection, take right to go to base of Falls, highly recommend doing this, a little tough coming up but worth it.
  • Mile 2.2 – Continue down fire road until it ends and then follow narrow/rocky path to the base. When the water is flowing the pool at the bottom would feel good to take a swim.
  • Mile 2.9 – Return back to Intersection at Mile 1.5, tough little climb out of the Gorge, continue past intersection, staying on fire road, trail is yellow-blazed at this point
  • Mile 3.3 – Reach South River Fire Road. Decision point:

    • For short 4.8 mile loop stay straight and in 0.8 miles reach the Appalachian Trail, take a left onto the AT and in 0.5 miles reach the South River Falls Trail, take a right to reach South River Falls Picnic Area to complete hike.

    • For longer 10.5 circuit hike continue following the directions below.

Note: Over the next 1.2 miles you will cross into the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area and various Private Properties, stay on the trail and you will be fine, you will even cross a yellow road barrier. The blazes are sketchy at best on this section.

  • Mile 3.3 - Bear hard right onto the South River Falls Fire Road.
  • Mile 4.5 – Intersection with Pocosin Horse Trail, bear left.
  • Mile 4.7 – Intersection with short Spur Trail to South River Cemetery, bear right.
  • Mile 4.8South River Cemetery.
  • Mile 6.0 – Return to previous intersection and bear right continuing on the Pocosin Horse Trail, reaching the Upper Pososin Mission ruins. The Upper Pocosin Mission cemetery is to the left and the Mission to the right. The trail bears to the left and becomes the Pocosin Fire Road at this point.
  • Mile 6.8Pocosin Cabin on the left. This can be rented from PATC. Great view from the front of the cabin looking east. Return to fire road, bear left.
  • Mile 7.0 – Appalachian Trail Intersection, bear left heading South on the AT.
  • Mile 7.5 – After a couple of breath catching switchbacks reach a vista with views northward, probably best when the leaves are off the trees.
  • Mile 8.6 – Summit of Bald Face Mtn with a vista to the west, once again probably better when the leaves are off.
  • Mile 9.9 – Intersection with South River Fire Road, go through intersection, staying on the AT.
  • Mile 10.4 – Intersection with South River Falls Trail, take right to head back to Parking Area.
  • Mile 10.5 - Parking Area.
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the South River Falls hike:

Hiker Reviews For The South River Falls Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Ileana Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 4, 2018
Your directions were good until the end. I did the 10.5 circuit hike and after a very hard rain a couple of days ago, the falls were gushing water. Spectacular! When I arrived at the fire road at the end, your directions say to stay on the AT and the South River Falls trail is .5 miles away. In fact, the South River Falls trail is a steep 1.5 miles down the fire road to the left and then you have to hike up 1.5 miles to the parking lot. The other alternative is Skyline Drive at .2 miles going right but it doesn't take you to the parking lot. You have to walk a little bit on Skyline Drive to reach the parking lot. Go left when you reach the top of the fire road to the South River parking lot.

By: Em Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 19, 2018
I went out early in the morning fully intending to do the 10 mile loop! Welp, the views of the waterfall were mostly covered by foliage and the fire trail was too overgrown to hike! Had to do the short loop which I found boring. I’ll go back in November to try out the full loop but overall I don’t think this is a good choice for summertime—unless you’re super keen on a shorter hike and a swim.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, January 25, 2018
This hike was great! Except...it's haunted! I legit felt like that section through Rapidan and until you're back onto the AT had a haunted feel to it. Then sure enough I got home and there are a couple unsolved mysteries from out that way! Very scary, maybe you need to add that into your ratings!!

By: Medic-G Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 15, 2018
My wife and I did the "extra short" version of this hike.  We took advantage of the NPS fee free day on MLK day and did a portion of this hike.  We hiked to the base of the falls and back returning on the South River Trail making an approximate 4.4 mile hike.

With the exception of the falls, I would agree with the views being a 2.  Since we did this in winter, the views were better since there were no leaves on the trees.  Also, since the temperatures were below freezing and had been below freezing we had some good ice formations on several of the rock faces and the South River and falls also had ice formations.  We were glad there was ice on the falls because the possibility of ice on the falls is the reason we chose this hike.

I would have to give it a lower solitude score.  I know this was a fee free day however, it was a cold winter day and there were quite a few people on the trail.  We luckily timed our hike and had the base of the falls to ourselves.  I would give it a 2 for solitude on the day we hiked and I could see where the solitude on this trail/hike would be a 1 in the summer/warmer months.

Just a reminder for those with dogs who would like to do this hike, dogs are to be kept on a leash.  We ran into one dog off the leash which could have been a problem since we were hiking with our dog.  So, just a friendly reminder.

By: TAG Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 13, 2018
We only hiked the short version of the hike but it far exceeded our expectations. The waterfall was stunning, especially from the base. Today's weather was frigid and super windy but we escaped much of the wind by hiking down to the falls only. View of the falls were excellent with the bare trees. Our watches logged 1400' of elevation but it wasn't technical at all except right at the base of the falls which was a short rock scramble. The falls were gushing today. I highly recommend this hike!

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